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Medical marijuana dispensaries might soon begin sprouting up around the city of Mesquite, Nev., just 30 miles southwest of St. George. On Tuesday, the Mesquite City Council will hold a public hearing for residents to voice their feelings about proposed legislation that would establish zoning and licensing procedures and regulations for marijuana dispensaries. Last week, the council decided hold an Aug. 5 vote on the proposed bills, reversing a decision made earlier this year to postpone considering any medical marijuana bills until January 2015.
The council's decision to consider permitting medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in Mesquite follows the Nevada state legislature’s decision to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana for medical reasons when prescribed by a doctor. One possible reason that the Mesquite council has decided to look closely at permitting dispensaries is a provision of the state law, which permits residents living more than 25 miles from a dispensary to grow up to 12 marijuana plants and to possess up to five ounces of dried marijuana for smoking or cooking purposes.
Mesquite Councilwoman Cindi Delaney said that, the way she sees it, the state law gives the community two options when it comes to medical marijuana. “Option A is that we can control it,” Delaney said. “We can test it; we can actually make it a revenue source that can offer people jobs.” Delaney estimates that allowing regulated dispensaries could create between 100 and 150 new jobs for Mesquite.
“Option B is we allow citizens to grow their own,” Delaney said, “which, in my opinion, makes it more available to youth or to anybody. A dispensary puts it in a very controlled location, under lock and key.”
On July 8, the Mesquite council held their first hearing on the ordinances and voted unanimously to shelve future discussion on the bill until January 2015. However, just two weeks later, Delaney and Councilman Geno Withelder reintroduced the bill, deciding that the council had acted hastily by shelving the bill before they had a chance to take a close look at the issue. At the July 22 meeting, by a 4-1 vote (Councilman Kraig Hafen was the lone dissenter), the council reversed its earlier decision, agreeing to hold a public hearing on July 29 and a final vote on the ordinances on Aug. 5.
If the ordinances pass as currently written, both dispensaries and cultivation facilities would be restricted to industrial zones, located at least 1,000 feet from schools or other community facilities. Only one dispensary would be permitted for every 25,000 residents in Mesquite, which, at its current population of around 16,000 people, would mean that Mesquite could only license a single dispensary for now.
However, not everybody in Mesquite is ready to welcome marijuana dispensaries. Founded by Mormon pioneers in the 1880's, the predominately LDS community tends to be culturally conservative, and the idea of the city government sanctioning the sale and use of marijuana does not sit well with some.
A recent article in the Mesquite Local News quotes local LDS stake president Theron Jenson, who spoke against the ordinance at last week’s council meeting. “Making things legal doesn’t make it right,” he said, adding that by allowing dispensaries to operate within the city, he thinks city leaders would be sending kids the wrong message.
Councilwoman Delaney said that she thinks that many of those who are opposed to the ordinance do not fully understand the issue yet, and she hopes Tuesday’s meeting will help to clear up public misconceptions. She said that the council isn’t voting on whether or not to allow medical marijuana in Mesquite, but whether or not the city will have the ability to regulate and tax the production and sale.
“It’s already here,” she said. “By not doing anything, by not having an ordinance allowing production and dispensary [facilities], we are, by the very nature of that, allowing people to grow their own.”
“Hopefully,” Delaney said, “people will come with an open mind and be willing to learn something.”
A public hearing about the proposed ordinances will be held at the council meeting on Tuesday, July 29, featuring presentations about the potential economic, medical, and criminal impacts of establishing dispensaries. The Mesquite council will hold their final vote on the ordinance at the following meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 5.